Of all the books on writing that I have read - how to; how not to - there is one that I return to time and again: On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser.
Mr. Zinsser started his career writing for newspapers, became an editor, taught writing at Yale in the 1970s, and for two years wrote an award-winning column on the arts for The American Scholar website.
He has written 18 books covering jazz, memoir, travel, baseball, and songwriters. All that in addition to his lively treatises On Writing Well and On Writing to Learn.
I read recently in the New York Times that Mr. Zinsser has retired at the age of 90. He no longer goes to his office in Manhattan because, due to glaucoma, he can no longer see. So now, according to the article written by Dan Berry, he meets with writers one-on-one in his apartment and listens and counsels.
What cannot be read can be heard.
Mr. Zinsser is not a fan of pretentious, overwrought, cluttered writing.
Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything you can throw away. Re-examine each sentence you put on paper. Is every word doing new work? Can any thought be expressed with more economy? Is anything pompous or pretentious or faddish? Are you hanging on to something useless just because you think it's beautiful?
I love this book. All the more because I met Mr. Zinsser in 1997 at a library event and he autographed my copy of the book's third edition. (I also have a copy of the second edition because one can never have enough copies of this book.)
It was first published in 1976 and is still the cleanest, most direct book on writing I have read. Even if you are not a writer, you will be entertained as it is full of examples and quotes and witty admonitions. His guidelines will help you better compose even the simplest note. And make you a better reader for you will immediately spot gobble-de-gook. And we hate gobble-de-gook!
On Writing Well is a classic.
Look for it. Buy it. Read it. It will be money and time well spent.